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Ignoring asbestos regulations costly for business owner

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The owner of a Bedford-based cladding installation firm has been fined more than £7,000 after workers were exposed to airborne asbestos fibres.

Asbestos is responsible for around 4,500 fatalities a year, making it the largest cause of work-related deaths in the UK, but is still present in many buildings.

There are strict guidelines in place regarding the assessment and removal of asbestos in order to keep workers safe, and businesses that fail to follow them face the prospect of an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and prosecution.

That happened to Michael Southern, of PMF Cladding, who ended up pleading guilty to four breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 after failing to follow the correct procedures when his company carried out a refurbishment project at a property in Sharnbrook.

Bedford Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Southern, 48, did not arrange for a suitable asbestos survey at the site before he instructed an employee and a casual labourer to remove and replace soffit boards.

It also emerged that he did not have the required licence to work with asbestos and had not provided any kind of training to workers who may encounter the fibres.

Magistrates fined Mr Southern £7,015 after his guilty plea and ordered him to pay £3,200 in costs.

Following the hearing, HSE Inspector Gavin Bull said that given the nature of Mr Southern’s business, he should have been aware of the regulations governing working with asbestos and had no excuse for allowing workers to be exposed to the risk of inhaling fibres.

"This incident was entirely preventable and highlights the importance of having a robust asbestos management system in place,” Mr Bull explained. “Dutyholders should identify the type, location and condition of all asbestos-containing materials, and establish appropriate precautions, before starting removal operations.”

The removal of asbestos-containing materials considered to be high risk, such as insulation, lagging and insulating board, must be carried out by a licensed contractor who has the right level of expertise and all the correct safety equipment.

Find out more about asbestos removal services from BLS Asbestos

Published: 27th August 2013